Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Water sustainability not all it`s cracked up to be


Sustainability may not be all it’s cracked up to be. That is the message in a recent paper by a hydrogeologist at Reading University . Michael Price argues that most human advances have been non-sustainable in the long term and that when we talk of ‘sustainable use’ we must define the period over which the use is planned or implemented.

Price identifies three major challenges currently facing Britain and the world. The first is that the climate, and with it the supply of water, is becoming less predictable. Since 1975 Great Britain has suffered four droughts, each of which has been estimated to have a return period of more than 200 years. In 2000-1, parts of England experienced some of the worst instances of flooding on record. Global climate models predict that we can expect more droughts and more periods of heavy rainfall accompanied by increased occurrences of flooding.

The second challenge is that the global demand for fresh water will increase, as population increases and the standard of living improves. It has been argued that in Britain we can counter this increased demand by metering water and making it more expensive. However, consumption of water per head of population in Britain is below that of many other developed countries where domestic water is metered. The stark truth is that demand for water is almost directly related to prosperity - as disposable income increases, water use increases.

The third fact is that concern for the environment has increased and is likely to go on increasing. This too is a reflection of increased prosperity and - for at least some of the population - increased leisure time to spend enjoying the countryside and thinking about environmental issues. Price accepts the need for some form of sustainable approach to water use to protect the environment, but concludes that
  1. Sustainability should not be seen as an end in itself. Most human advances have not been sustainable in the long term; rather, mankind has advanced by a series of unsustainable developments.

  2. It follows that when we talk of sustainability, we should define the time period over which we are measuring sustainability

  3. Resources traditionally have been exploited by the first people to need them and to have the technology to use them.

  4. Although bad planning decisions play a part, environmental problems are usually the result of a conflict of legitimate interests rather than deliberate lack of concern for environmental well being.

  5. The best ways to ensure sustainable use of water are to re-use water after abstraction and to reduce irrigated agriculture wherever possible in favour of rain-fed agriculture. The first essentially means some form of re-use of sewage effluent and will require a change in public attitude; Price argues that it is pointless to treat sewage to very high standards only to pipe it out to sea. The second will require a change in economic approach that is outside the control of hydrologists and water engineers.

  6. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should remember that a water environment that was sustainable under one climatic regime may become unsustainable if - or when - the climate changes. Water tables will rise and fall and stream networks expand and shrink depending on the amounts of recharge. If the changes are short-term fluctuations, groundwater storage will be important in helping to ameliorate the effects on both the environment and water supplies. If the climatic changes are long-term trends, then no amount of planning or legislation will prevent the resulting changes to the environment.

Sue Rayner | alphagalileo

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>